The Luciana Phenomenon

I attended the fringe meeting to meet Luciana Berger MP in a small room fit for perhaps 30-40 people. Whoever thought that would be enough at a Lib Dem Conference for a meeting with the dynamic, young Jewish MP who had just joined the Lib Dems after 10 years as a Labour MP?

The room was rammed to the doors with another huge group outside the open doors. It was clear that Luciana hadn’t expected such a welcome. The room was so crowded that the person due to chair the meeting couldn’t get in!

A chair, who happened to be from Luciana’s constituency in Liverpool took over and we had an hour of intense questioning from the audience. Luciana answered all the questions with no evasion or missing the point. She told us what her skills were and about her journey to join the Lib Dems. Those of us who were there were left in no doubt as to her commitment to our party.

She was emotional, funny and direct. It was clear to all of us in the room that she felt so at home in the Lib Dems after her ordeal in the Labour Party. It was obvious that a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. At times she seemed on the verge of tears in what was obviously a very emotional time in her political life.

How appalling it is that she should have been subjected to so much anti-Semitic abuse and threats in the Labour Party that she required a bodyguard at their last conference.

* Dr Michael Taylor has been a party member since 1964. He is currently active in the Calderdale Party.

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39 Comments

  • Ellen Nicholson 20th Sep '19 - 11:10am

    I can only reiterate Michael Taylor’s comments. I was sat on the floor at the front in the packed Luciana Berger session.
    She was clear that there is everything to play for in the next election, democracy doesn’t stand still.

  • Jonathan Coulter 20th Sep '19 - 12:25pm

    Luciana Berger claims to have been subjected to massive antisemitic abuse from the left, but how solid is her evidence for this?

    Please take a look at this article by Bob Pitt which suggests that she has been intentionally blurring the distinction between abuse from the left and the far right, and that this is part of a politically-motivated campaign of defamation against Labour Party members. See: https://medium.com/@pitt_bob/has-the-labour-left-subjected-luciana-berger-to-hatespeak-and-death-threats-146598226313

  • Christopher Oxford 20th Sep '19 - 1:43pm

    Hardly a helpful comment, Jonathan. Your source is an opinionated member of the hard left, amongst whose other pieces is one accusing Tom Watson of being a paid shill of “Zionists”. The abuse Luciana received was real, and what matters is that in her judgement, as the victim, it made her unwelcome in the Labour Party. Adopting an attitude of hostile scepticism toward someone who has placed her faith in us would be ungracious, and out of accord with our Liberal ethos.

  • Richard Logue 20th Sep '19 - 2:08pm

    It’s fantastic to have Luciana on board and I was delighted to meet her last week both in Barnet and at Conference. She is a real asset to our party.

  • Jonathan Coulter 20th Sep '19 - 2:23pm

    Christopher and Lorenzo, you use words like “opinionated”, “hard-left”, “slur”, “awful”, “ungracious” etc., but neither of you deal with the argument and evidence Pitt presents. Frankly, I am more concerned with the evidence behind Pitt’s statement, than his political affiliation or alleged character.

    I really think we Lib Dems need to be a bit more clinical in analysing things and digging out the truth.

    Likewise, the way to address Pitt’s claim about Tom Watson is to look for the evidence for and against. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the matter, but have found this: https://dorseteye.com/who-is-funding-tom-watson/?fbclid=IwAR00E4BTsnLn-0XjY-0co0xSbOq09j44JY4rbH1-PGMpaDGvOVQ-_fcjwVs. What hard evidence do you have on the matter?

  • Nom de Plume 20th Sep '19 - 3:07pm

    The precise reasons why Luciana Berger left the Labour Party is known only to Luciana Berger. Until she makes a statement on the matter, everything else is speculation. It is a big step to defect. Something pushed her.

  • David Allen 20th Sep '19 - 3:08pm

    OK, I’ve read the piece by Bob Pitt. It explains that Berger has received multiple death threats and other criminal abuse, most of which came from the far right. It complains that Berger has made more of a fuss about the abuse that came from the left. Well, but isn’t it obvious why? Right-wing racists will always be right-wing racists, but a left-wing party really should not tolerate racism. I’m not impressed, Mr Pitt.

  • Jonathan Coulter 20th Sep '19 - 4:22pm

    David Allen, you try hard to justify Berger’s position, but it doesn’t hold up.
    Of the six people supposed to have been convicted of antisemtic threats against Luciana, only three went to prison for race hate crimes having made threats of violence. Of the two left-wing cases, one was highly offensive (he used the C word) but not apparently antisemitic (the guy was reportedly Jewish). The other case was clearly antisemitic though it is not sure he was a member of the Labour Party member.
    If you have studied statistics, David, you will know one cannot generalise about a population on the basis of a sample of six cases – even less when only one of them fits the definition of a left-wing antisemite.
    I would recommend anyone to have good read of Pitt’s article, because he is very thorough in his incisive analysis. Notably, he is able to show that that both Berger strangely altered their postures on “left antisemitism” after the June 2017. In an earlier incarnation, Berger she liked JC and that she thought he was a man of principle. In August 2016 when she told the Observer there wasn’t a serious problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party, but in March 2018 she announced to the crowd in Parliament Square that the party was infested with it.

  • Tony Greaves 20th Sep '19 - 4:43pm

    Why does someone turn a positive welcoming posting like this into a rather nasty thread? We should judge people by what they are now and what they contribute to our party.

  • Malcolm Todd 20th Sep '19 - 4:44pm

    David Allen
    That’s a grotesque misrepresentation of Pitt’s argument.

  • Mick Taylor 20th Sep '19 - 5:17pm

    Thank you those who have made welcoming statements.As a Liberal I very much take Tony Greaves’s position and judge people for what they are now. It is my judgement – as I suspect that of most of those at the fringe meeting – that Luciana is a genuine convert to our party and that she is thrilled to be welcomed.
    The other comments are just sour and unpleasant and show exactly why she left the Labour Party

  • Well said Mick Taylor. The rather sour comments by a minority leave a rather nasty taste.

  • Jonathan Coulter 20th Sep '19 - 7:29pm

    Mick, my purpose was to examine the evidence behind your own statement that Luciana had been the object of “so much anti-Semitic abuse and threats in the Labour Party” – nothing more, nothing less. Adjectives like “sour and unpleasant” are not relevant to the point. I hope Luciana can make a positive contribution to the Party.

  • marcstevens 20th Sep '19 - 7:32pm

    I think Luciana will be an asset to the party. I have come across anti semitism hatred and when I brought it up at a Unite union meeting not a single person condemned it. Surely some people on here should be questioning why it is not being dealt with in a robust way, you know comments like ‘Hitler should’ve finished off the job’ in the same way that other racist abuse is rather than condoning it.

  • Rodney Watts 20th Sep '19 - 7:33pm

    Being a large part Jewish, might be thought to incline me to welcome Luciana . Whilst one deplores the antisemitism experienced by Luciana , sadly, the stories about antisemitism in the Labour Party promolgated by all three arrivals in our party do not entirely stack up under scrutiny. Jonathan Coulter is correct, and strongly supported by the Jews in Jewish Voice for Labour, (JVL) with whom I interact on a non party political basis on occasion.

    JVL has also produced a very large submission to the EHRC signed by people including eminent Jewish lawyers and the EHRC’s own former enforcer in N. Ireland, Having once been an activist for 37 years, including parish councillor in N. Devon and chairman of the Honiton Branch I would recommend a read of https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/lib-dem-members-party-line-on-labour-anti-semitism-is-ill-judged-and-uncritical/

  • Nom de Plume 20th Sep '19 - 8:56pm
  • Mick Taylor 20th Sep '19 - 9:08pm

    Hm. Quoting a document in support of Jonathan Coulter that is authored by Jonathan Coulter and others is hardly an unbiased source.
    The whole point of my article was to welcome Luciana and I think it most unfortunate that some people see this as another opportunity to cast doubt on her credentials.

  • I wish Luciana luck. I’m not so sure it’s just a labour party problem. I look on line and sometimes feel a profound sense of despair at the ugly levels of anti-Semitism and misogyny at play in everything from comments on film reviews to political debate.

  • Rodney Watts 20th Sep '19 - 11:11pm

    @ Nom de Plume & Mick Taylor

    First, may I gently point out that that the Guardian is quoting members of the Jewish labour Movement , of which Luciana was once chair, NOT Jewish Voice for labour that I have referred to above. Now, I may not agree with all of Jeremy Corbyns socioeconomic philosophy, but the Jewish Labour Movement has consistently been critical of his views on Israel & Palestinians. They have exagerated antisemitism in the LP, weaponising it for cynical reasons.– and which some of our Party, sadly, have bought into.
    Second, with regard to bias, and I speak as a past research medical biochemist, where careful examination of evidence was crucial, the reference above further refers to a very sound analysis of the occurrence of antisemitism throughout our society and the actual small amount associated with the LP. I understand leadership has not given the report due consideration.

  • Great to have Luciana on board, and Chukka, and (a bit less enthusiastically) Angela too. However, tonight the news is that some Corbynites want to abolish the post of deputy leader, in a bid to screw Tom Watson. Of course I think this is astonishing, and appalling. But the point I want to make is: Under no circumstances should Tom Watson be admitted to the Liberal Democrats. I don’t know if there are ‘conversations’ going on at the highest levels about it, but I just wanted to make this point somewhere. He is not a Liberal, and the divisive, Machiavellian style of politics he has operated through much of his career has been the type that we don’t want to welcome.
    These recent defections to us are great, but while remaining open to people who have shown genuine Liberal instincts, I think we also need to show that we won’t accept just anyone. We need to draw the line somewhere, and I think TW is that line. So, we should condemn the way he is being treated, and if he decides to leave the Labour party we should wish him well and let him join the TIGfC or Ind group, and work with him where we agree just as we do with them. But a LibDem he is not, so let’s not be silly and pretend otherwise.

  • At the end of the day people have to be free to join our party. Everyone should have the aims of the party drawn to their attention. This may be the only thing that we do agree on.
    I do not see what the religion of people joining has to do with us. The advice in training for employee selection is not to mention issues which are not your concern. Like religion
    I think that often posts I read are bordering on insulting behaviour. This might be called bullying.
    The way to avoid it is to focus on the future of our party, and how to ensure that we have no candidate at the next election who is a problem for us.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Sep ’19 – 11:45pm…………..As the writer of an earlier article on the forum to welcome Luciana…………..

    It seems that the only criteria for being ‘wonderful’, ‘fine’ and ‘beyond question’ is to want to join the LibDems; criticism, of any kind, is not tolerated.
    The posts by Jonathan Coulter and Rodney Watts were reasoned and calm but dismissed as “smear, lies, exagaration, does not deal in testimony or memory or decency”.
    By the way..Why not put in for the copyright on ‘Corbynite’ (and any derivatives) you seem to be unable to post on any subject without throwing those into the mix.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Sep ’19 – 1:02pm expats……….The reasons for my support for Luciana have nothing to do with her joining us, I praised her way back, from the days she spoke against antisemitism two or more years ago………….

    But, LC. ” two or more years ago” she was referring to right wing abuse. It seems that the left wing infestation only surfaced in 2018..Now that is all we hear about.

    As for ‘concerns’ I’ve heard nothing, on here, about those concerns from the LGBT community

  • Rodney Watts 22nd Sep '19 - 9:00pm

    @ Lorenzo Cherin @ expats
    Regret that being almost full time carer for my wife at 79 has delayed comment on the above diatribe, but I appreciate your comments, expats. I am sure Jonathan Coulter would concur, but I understand he is away on holiday. If the theatrical style denigration were only directed at me I would have just ignored it. Painful as it has been for Luciana, and I can at least partly empathise as one who has also been offered police protection for a short while. However, as also referred to in today’s Tom Arms article ‘Consequences’ Newton’s law of action and reaction applies in the political sphere where we ourselves generate ‘unintended consequences’ though we deplore the kickbacks.

    What grieves me is that I have rejoined a Lib Dem Party, which appears different from the one I was in for 37 years, where all the ideals as expressed in the preamble to our constitution were clearly manifested. I understand that no Party wants what has happened in the LP and certainly not actual antisemitism. Being partly Jewish, I certainly welcome that, and I see that it is reported in bold type that Luciana avers ‘(Labour) is now institutionally antisemetic https://www.libdems.org.uk/luciana-joins
    However, this is not supported by a considerable number of Labour Jews, and neither has the EHRC confirmed.
    Leadership has not actually checked the veracity of allegations nor answered the complaint of unfair treatment of LDFP. Indeed, whilst it is fine for leadership to declare that the Lib Dem Party is a ‘safe place for Jews’, I regret that I find a more accurate statement would be a safe place for Zionists. This then excludes the ca 40% of Jews not identifying as such. Sadly, IMHO, Jonathan et al have just reason for making their comments. You used the word decency- I use the words Truth and Integrity

  • Miranda Pinch 3rd Oct '19 - 6:00pm

    I would like to ask all the contributors to this thread your opinion on my experience at the conference. I too attended Luciana Berger’s meeting and I too am a Jew. However my experience of being Jewish in the Lib Dems is rather different to the hype we are being presented with about the way the Lib Dems deal with racism, anti-Semitism, equality, social justice and all the rest. In the past few years I have been abused a number of times by members of Friends of Israel and will not go into it all as some of it is subject of a complaint that I made to the Party in April, that has STILL not been addressed. That included such things as my not being a real Jew and that I was a Holocaust denier (as my mother was a survivor of the Holocaust those were just plain abusive). At the conference on two separate occasions, one of which was definitely by a member of Friends of Israel, I was told I ought to be a member of the Labour Party and not a Lib Dem. Further than that it was implied that I should disassociate myself from Jewish friends of mine who belong to Jewish Voice for Labour. In other words these people were using the term Labour as synonymous with Anti-Semitism despite the fact that Labour is a large Party with a huge variety of opinion within it. So is not equating the word Labour with anti-Semitism, similar to saying that all Jews believe this or that? It is a generalisation that is downright abusive and libellous. To be told that all my friends are also obviously anti-Semitic as they belong to Jewish Voice for Labour is equally appalling.
    The meeting with Luciana Berger whipped up a frenzy of people saying that they had escaped form labour’s anti-Semitism. In fact the two greatest cries to action I heard were to combat Brexit and second to be the Party that deals best with anti-Semitism. I was asked by the person next to me at the meeting why I did not ask a question. The reason is that I felt too intimidated. Yes, I a Jew in the Lib Dems felt too intimidated by the whipped up frenzy to say anything.
    I am not a member of the Labour party, I am a Lib Dem. The reason is that until recently we stood for social justice , free speech, human rights and justice. Where has all that gone?

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Oct '19 - 9:03pm

    Thank you for your heart felt contribution Miranda Pinch.
    I am the son of a holocaust survivor as well and many more distant relatives were not so lucky, including my great aunt and my mother’s cousin.
    I have never been a supporter of LD Friends of Israel, nor LD Friends of Palestine. The situation in the Middle East is far too fraught to take sides as you suggest the LD Friends of Israel person did. I very much support Layla Moran’s recent take on this whole area.
    However, just because you have been pilloried, so was Luciana in the Labour Party. Two wrongs never make a right.
    I think the complaints procedure of the party – even the brand new one – leaves a lot to be desired, because complaints simply don’t get resolved quickly, if at all. Even if they do, someone else tries to revive them or appeal against them.
    I hope that someone with the clout to do something about it now takes up your complaint and makes sure it is resolved.

  • Nom de Plume 3rd Oct '19 - 9:04pm

    I was not at the conference. It would seem that the Jewish community’s views on anti-Semitism in Labour are quite divided. The alleged comments by members from the Friends of Israel would seem completely inappropriate to me. Quite aggressive. Complaints should be dealt with promptly.

    More heat than light on this thread.

  • Miranda Pinch 3rd Oct '19 - 10:22pm

    Mick, I think you are missing the point I am making. If it is antisemitic to accuse ALL Jews of something or to generalise. Why is it OK to lable Labour as antisemitic? is that not the same thing? To generalise about any group of people is wrong. I am part of Friends of Palestine and as such support equality, human rights, self-determination etc for all in the region. I am not biased towards anyone, but I am biased towards human rights and justice for all. I am a Lib Dem because I thought our Party was in line with that. But now it seems keener to defend some against accusations of antisemitism and not others. I have Jewish friends in the Labour party who are in the same boat. You may disagree with my views, but I have, or should have more right to express such inclusive views in our party than those who throw accusations around with apparent indemnity. Unfortunately the hype created around Luciana and others is feeding this further. We need to look at the facts and the stats and to moderate ourselves so as not to fall into the very trap we are accusing others of.

  • Jonathan Coulter 4th Oct '19 - 12:15am

    Mick Taylor, you will recall I started this thread by asking you to put hard evidence behind your assertion that Luciana Berger had been subjected to so much anti-Semitic abuse and threats in the Labour Party, and to address Bob Pitt’s evidence that she had been intentionally blurring the distinction between abuse from the left and the far right. Thirty comments later, and you have provided no answer, but continue to make the same evidence-free assertion. I think we Lib Dems need to do better.

  • Nom de Plume 4th Oct '19 - 5:18am

    @Jonathan Coulter

    If the anti-Semitism took the form of verbal abuse there will be no evidence, only testimony. Luciana Berger found the enivronment sufficiently uncomfortable that she decided to leave. Her testimony suffices. It is not proof of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. None is required. A formal enquiry would be required, including many testimonies, to establish if and what form of anti-Semitism exists in the Labour Party. Even then it may not be conclusive.

  • Miranda Pinch 4th Oct '19 - 8:27am

    Nom, what about my discomfort? is that Ok because I am only a member of the party and not a celebrity MP ? And what about my point about the Lib Dem’s hypocricy in the way such issues are presented? Does my testimony suffice or do you need all the abusive messages I have been sent? Actually the Lib Dems have been in possession of much of that since early April and have done nothing at all. As a Jew within the party with a different opinion on certain matters to Luciana, particularly regarding Israel, do I not count at all? I don’t deny that she may have received some nasty abuse and even threats of violence, but among female policians the person who has received more than all the others put together is Diane Abbott.

  • Rodney Watts 4th Oct '19 - 11:32am

    I am just getting more and more shocked at what I have found on rejoining the Party. Miranda, you are the victim of gross injustice, and I don’t say that just because I am Jewish.
    Mick, you say that you support neither Friends of Israel or Palestine because “the situation in the ME is too fraught to take sides…… I very much support Layla Moran’s recent take… (as reported in Jewish News/ Times of Israel?) Unfortunately I do not concur, for it is precisely because of being Jewish Libdems, I feel strongly that we do stand with the oppressed—and that includes Jews in Israel in such organisations as Gush Shalom, Breaking the Silence, Combatants for Peace, B’Tselem, +972 magazine, etc.. Sadly Layla, as reported in Jewish News imputed Jeremy Corbyn as responsible for all the alleged and real antisemitism. This does not match up with those Labour Jews who have complained that JC has not been strong enough in rebuffing the false allegations.

  • Jonathan Coulter 4th Oct '19 - 6:15pm

    Rodney puts his finger on a key opportunity for Lib Dems to push back against Jeremy Corbyn. Instead of cynically attacking him as ‘antisemitic’, we should turn the argument round the other way, pointing out how he has failed to stand up for his own supporters (people like Chris Williamson, Marc Wadsworth and Jackie Walker) who have been unremittingly and untruthfully pilloried as such in the media. Could we in Britain rely on such a PM in the event of a threat to our security?

  • Miranda Pinch 4th Oct '19 - 8:11pm

    Jonathan. I think the Lib Dems need to get their own house in order and defend its own supporters who have been pilloried by its own members. I just look for equal treatment of all. We don’t have that right now. There was a wonderful statement on Facebook from Alexie Sayle who points out that most of the members who have been suspended from the labour party for being antisemitic have been Jewish!! Lib Dem Friends of Palestine were suspended for no reason at all except the perception of one or two who decided that they did not like what they had to say. No antisemitism was proven at all. As said, the Lib Dems need to get their own house in order before throwing accusations around about others.

  • Mick Taylor 5th Oct '19 - 8:30am

    Miranda Pinch.
    Of course we LibDems must act swiftly against any allegations of anti semitism.
    I think you misinterpreted my comments as disagreeing with you. I have asked the Party President to follow up on your unanswered complaint.
    I think the only solution to the problems of the Middle East is for all parties to get round the table without preconditions and make peace. I am critical of the attitudes of both sides in this respect. That is why I have not joined either of the two groups in the party.
    I don’t know if Labour is an institutionally anti-semitic party. I only report on what has been said at our meeting in Bournemouth and elsewhere. I have no doubt at all that Luciana Berger was put under intolerable strain in the Labour Party as a result of being Jewish. The most striking point she made was that she required a bodyguard at the last Labour conference she attended.

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